July 23, 2014
The first time, they come from up Congo, river. I eleven. We hear engines and guns and much scream. We not know them. They have uniform. They have gun. They drive in village and shoot many bullet. Kill many, much. People run scream. My brother Adisa dead. My papa, big man, warrior. Dead. My ma. Dead. My brother Chidi and Jengo and sister Kagiso. They catch them. They take them. They disappear them. No come back. People run into hut. They burn all hut, people in them. Aunt Mirembe and Baby Simisola in hut. Baby Simisola burn dead. Aunt Mirembe burn much, not dead. I cry much, much. They kill cattle, goats. Burn chickens in pen, pig in pen. Grandma grab me. We run bush. We run and run. Man in uniform chase us. We run no stop.
We in bush two day. When smoke gone. We go back village.
Grandma speak, “Omalara girl. You see uniform, you run. You run much. Men fight. You girl. You run,” she say. She grab my arm and talk my eyes. “You run fast, no stop. They disappear you,” she say. She hurt my arm.
“I run,” I say. I afraid.
We go village see men in uniform. Different men, some white. We watch from bush. They give food. Catholic priest from school come. Teacher come. We watch. They make little blue tents. We go village, see dead. I cry much, much. My people dead. Some boys girls women are disappeared.
Me, Grandma, brother Baby Zee live in blue tent. Baby Zee cry all time. We give food, milk. He want ma. Grandma put Baby Zee to chest. Grandma dry. Baby Zee cry, want ma.
Tent small. Sometime I sleep outside. Look at stars and dream. I speak God. “I watch over Baby Zee,” I say.
“Watch over Baby Zee,” He say.
Later I speak Grandma, “What is disappeared?” I say.
“Disappeared very bad. You wish you dead. You cannot die. They no let you die. It worse than dead,” she say. “Better dead,” she say. “You see uniform, you run.” She say all time. Grandma cry all time.
Later good soldiers make big huts. I live with Grandma and brother, Baby Zee. Little baby, four months.
I work in field with women. They sad, but later time happy some time. I pick beans yams. I go school. I like school. Bembo big boy mean boy say I work in field. He papa dead, bullets. He papa big man warrior priest shaman. He like two papa to me, like two papa to all people in village. I miss him. I go school Bembo mean to me. He shake me say I work in field. He take me field then go hunt. He best hunter with spear. He go, I run school. I see Bembo later he beat me with stick. He say I work in field. Women dead, must work in field. Every day he take me field go hunt I run school he beat me every day. I cry. He beat me with stick every day. I go school.
Papa dead. Ma dead. Grandma old yell at Bembo. He walk away. He say old people no use. No work in field just eat all food. No get firewood no get water. No use. He mean boy. I hate Bembo. All child hate Bembo fear Bembo. I yell at him. “Grandma all Grandma good. Much smart know all. Take care of babies. Much love,” I say.
“No use,” he say. “Eat all day all food.”
He beat me every day. He not my papa. He beat me. I cry no more. He mad I cry no more. I go school. I go school. Later he beat me no more. Tire of it. He boy mean boy. I go school. Learn English, learn French, learn arithmetic.
Time go, one year more. Men in uniform come, five six. Have gun big big knife. People scream. Man see me I run bush. He chase me. Bembo come with spear. He see man, throw spear. Man stop he dead. Bembo step on man get spear.
Bembo yell, “Run run!”
I run run stop go back get Baby Zee. Two men at baby hut. One man go baby hut with big knife. Bembo fight other man. All grandma scream. Man in uniform kick Baby Sauda in chest with big boot. Baby fall. Man jump on Baby Sauda neck. Grandma Olamida scream and run at man. He stick knife in chest. She stop. Same time Grandma Ife fight man. He cut her chest blood. She fight. Grandma Jelani fight scratch eyes bite man. More grandma fight man kick scratch bite. Man yell drop knife. Grandma Ife get knife stick man many many. He stop he dead.
Bembo stick man with spear same time man hit Bembo arm big knife. Bembo arm much blood. Man hit Bembo arm again. Arm loose. Bembo scream angry angry. Bembo stick man with spear. Man stop he dead. Other man have gun. Shoot Bembo. Bembo stop. Man shoot Bembo two bullets. Bembo scream angry throw spear in man neck. Man dead. Bembo go baby hut. Arm loose much much blood. He fall stop.
Man in uniform go baby hut with gun shoot Grandma with bullet. All grandma scream. Grandma Udo fight man. He shoot bullet. Grandma Udo stop. I go hut and jump man leg at back. Same time all grandma fight man scream scratch bite. He shoot gun. Grandma Subira stop. All grandma fight man put finger in eye bite man scratch. He fall yell. Man shoot bullet. Grandma Taonga get knife stick man many many. He dead. I get Baby Zee run. Bembo dead. Bembo he man warrior he fight.
I run bush. Man chase me and Baby Zee. He shoot bullet. I run fast. Baby Zee cry scream. I run no stop long time long time. I stop sit. Baby Zee cry. I cry much sit long time. Walk small water. Give Baby Zee water. Get grass. Give Baby Zee grass he eat. Star in sky. Baby Zee cry. I put Baby Zee to chest. I dry he cry. Want ma. She dead. Papa dead. Grandma dead. I look at stars I hold Baby Zee in my shirt. Start sleep I cry start sleep. Baby Zee pee, mooj. Baby Zee not dead.
In day I put Baby Zee in shirt on back. He no cry he happy. He feel good on back, nice. I walk. I walk more. Baby Zee pee. Pee all time all time Baby Zee pee. I walk more find road. I walk more much. Hear engine hide in bush. I walk walk see village. Hide in bush watch. Sit. Star in sky. Baby Zee cry hungry. Want ma. I pick Baby Zee talk to eyes. Cry stop. I smile. Baby Zee smile. I laugh. Baby Zee laugh. I laugh much. Baby Zee laugh much. “I love Baby Zee,” I say. He love me.
I sleep. Big sun. I watch village much time. See truck say UN. I watch. I watch. People good no fight no scream. I go village. I afraid. People see me help me give food me and Baby Zee. Speak Lingala and French. School good.”
Baby Zee me go in UN truck. Truck lady good. Beatrice. Go camp. Go in truck more time long time long time. Go big big refugee camp many hut. Man woman in office give food, blue tarp, blanket, wood, soap.
“No. Live in foster hut home,” say woman. “Go school,” she say.
“What foster home?” I say.
“Live with family in hut,” she say.
Baby Zee me live old woman Grandma, five child, one baby. Woman child no happy. I no happy. Baby ma same age me. Me no woman. Grandma all child hungry all time.
I go school. Learn French. Learn arithmetic. Teacher French white. Teacher mean. Hit child with stick. He no love me. He no love no child. I go school. I go foster home.”
“Work, get money,” Grandma say.
“I go school, no work,” I say.
“Get money,” Grandma say. “Go well get water,” she say. All child bad eyes.
“Where well?” I say.
“Out refugee camp. Go bucket.” She say.
I go. Walk much out camp. Walk walk, see well many people. Line. I go line.
Man say bad to me. “You refugee. Take job take water take wood. Refugee bad. Go away,” man say. “Die.” All man woman say refugee bad. “Go.” I afraid.
“I get water,” I say.
More man women in line. “Go back line refugee,” them say.
“No,” I say. “I in line.”
Man push me, much. “Go back line,” he say. Man women eyes bad hate.
I go back line wait. More man women in line. Push me back line. I go I wait wait. Line go away. Well dry no water. Man angry. Push me down say bad. Take bucket. I afraid. I run refugee camp. Big camp.
I go hut. Grandma hold Baby Zee. “No water. Man get bucket,” I say.
Grandma scream much. “Get bucket,” she say. “Get job, get bucket. Go,” she say.
“I want Baby Zee,” I say.
“No Baby Zee, no food. Get bucket,” she say.
I cry. “No money,” I say.
She scream, much. ‘Give man sex, get money, get bucket,” she say.
“Grandma bad!” I scream. “I want Baby Zee.”
Two big child push me out hut.
Stars in sky. I cry run find teacher hut. I talk say bucket sex Baby Zee food. Teacher much much beer. He touch me bad.
“I pay two dollar, no more” he say. Eyes bad.
“I no woman. I girl,” I say.
“Two dollar,” he say.
He touch me bad. I run run. I stop cry. Ma. Papa, Grandma, Shaman. Help me! They dead. I want dead. I want dead.
“Watch over Baby Zee,” God say.
No dead. Lose Baby Zee. God hate me. I is disappeared.
I no eat three day. I go office. No people. I sleep outside office.
In sun I go bush get wood sell wood. I afraid much. Bush bad. Men witch disappear girl woman boy all time.
I afraid. I go. No eat. I get wood. See man talk smell beer much bad eyes. I lose wood run run. He chase me he fall scream angry. Run office. No people.
Star in sky. Teacher say two dollar two dollar. I go teacher two dollar. I go teacher hut he sex me I cry I cry all time no two dollar. He give me old food. Scraps. I cry go office sleep outside. I hate me God hate me. I cry all time.
Sleep. Sleep bad dream much. I dream man beer bad eyes witch chase me catch me. Dream family dead. Dream Bembo mean boy. Dead. Bembo man. He fight. My grandma all grandma fight. “Omolara girl,” Grandma say. I girl. I, I no girl. I woman. I fight. I fight. I get Baby Zee.
At sun I go bush get one stick run run. I go foster home watch. All child go. Grandma Baby Zee other baby in hut. I go in hut with stick. Babies on ground. Grandma scream. I swing stick at Grandma she fall. I get Baby Zee run run. Go teacher hut. Teacher at school. I get food. Pick Baby Zee talk eyes. He smile big say, “Omo.”
“I love Baby Zee,” I say.
I go doctor hut. I hurt say teacher sex hurt much me Grandma foster home take baby say bucket sex. Doctor say teacher good man Grandma good. “Bad,” I say. “Bad.” He say no talk teacher sex me. He say teacher talk tell all man, man get me all. I want dead. I want dead.
Me Baby Zee go. Walk office. I see big big light like sun hurt eyes. Sun at back on neck. I walk hurt eyes. I afraid. I walk office. Big light big light, no look. I pick Baby Zee hold to light. Big light around Baby Zee face. He look like God. Sometime later time he man. Warrior. I walk eyes hurt. I afraid. Walk more. Big light is truck. Sun on truck. Hurt eyes. I walk. See letter on truck say UN. “Beatrice!” I say.
I run office find Beatrice. She see me. She smile, “Omolara!” she say. I run hug cry Beatrice. Give food cloths me Baby Zee. I say Teacher sex scraps Grandma bad. I say all. She say she fix them. Get lawyer and fix them. I say good.
Beatrice take me Baby Zee in truck long time long time. I happy. “What lawyer?” I say.
“Lawyer is good person,” she say. “Help good people fix bad people. Fix Teacher bad Grandma Doctor. Help me Baby Zee.”
Go truck more. See big big UN hut many truck people. I afraid. Go in hut. Many small hut in big hut. Go small hut. I sit in chair I sit more. “Cold,” I say.
“Air conditioner,” Beatrice say. She look side of hut take my hand and go air conditioner. “Put face in front of air conditioner,” she say.
Me Baby Zee put face in front of air conditioner. Wind. Baby Zee close eyes turn head. I close eyes wind in hair. Cold wind. “Nice,” I say.
Woman walk in small hut. Lawyer. Talk French Beatrice. School good. Say go come small hut tomorrow. We go come tomorrow and lawyer say, “Me Baby Zee go America.” Beatrice happy. Beatrice say America good. Go school. Much food. Talk America much much. I say I go America.
Go America, Washington D.C. city. Refugee agency woman meet me go agency hut office. Many people many color. Agency woman, Nia, from Congo. She go me Baby Zee refugee shelter.
Small time go I go school. Learn English, arithmetic, computer, subway, money, hamburger, cellphone, electricity, Beiber. Baby Zee go baby school day care. He happy. Me happy. Eat all time no get firewood water.
Nia say, “Me Baby Zee get visa and be America long time.” Nia say, “Me Baby Zee go foster home.”
“No!” I scream. “No foster home. Foster home bad,” I scream. I cry. “No foster home!”
Nia say, “Why no foster home?”
“Bad people,” I say. “No food. Bad eyes. Hate me. Make do bad.” I cry. “Refugee camp foster home bad.”
“In America, foster home good. Good people,” she say.
“I want lawyer,” I say.
Nia get lawyer. Catherine. Lawyer say foster home good. Safe. Talk long time.
“Me Baby Zee go foster home,” I say. I afraid much. I afraid all time all time afraid.
Foster home big hut house. Small time go foster home good. Foster women Congo. Husband America white. They play Baby Zee hug me much. Love me. Play foosball. “Foooooooosball,” he say. Inside house small water. Tub. Warm water. Nice. See Beiber in TV all time.
I go school. I go school. Sometime long time I lawyer. Find brother Chidi and Jengo sister Kagiso. Is disappeared.
—Brian wrote a few short stories while in college and immediately after graduation put the pen down. He promised himself that he would resume writing some day in the future never believing that day would ever come. The day arrived in 2006, thirty years after graduation, when he began writing short stories about art, refugees, and marriage among other topics. When not writing fiction, Brian spends his time hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, sailing along the New England coast when circumstances permit, and volunteering as a grant writer at local non-profit organizations. The idea for “Is Disappeared” came about while helping a nonprofit write grants for victims of human trafficking.